Mercedes-Benz readies PHEV batteries

Mercedes-Benz readies PHEV batteries

New facility set to serve local market

Mercedes-Benz executive Markus Schaefer (centre) attended the cornerstone-laying ceremony with Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana Wednesday.
Mercedes-Benz executive Markus Schaefer (centre) attended the cornerstone-laying ceremony with Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana Wednesday.

German luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz has localised assembly of batteries for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) at its Samut Prakan plant with an investment of €100 million (3.9 billion baht).

Wednesday high-ranking executives from Stuttgart-based Daimler AG, together with two local arms -- Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing Thailand and Mercedes-Benz Thailand -- held a cornerstone-laying ceremony at its battery factory, witnessed by Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana and German Ambassador to Thailand Peter Pruegel.

Mercedes-Benz is the first car brand to produce batteries locally.

Thailand is the sixth battery plant for Daimler worldwide, along with three plants in Germany and one each in the US and China.

Thailand will be the first country in Asean to make EV batteries in the region.

Andreas Lettner, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing Thailand, said the €100-million investment is a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and its local partner -- Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant (TAAP).

TAAP is also the assembler for nine Mercedes-Benz models -- the C, E, S, GLE, GLA, CLA, GLC, GLC Coupe and the C-Class Coupe -- along with PHEVs.

Those vehicles are produced at its plant in Samut Prakan.

For the new battery plant, TAAP established Thonburi Energy Storage Manufacturing Co last October to run the facility.

The company has also filed an application with the Board of Investment (BoI) to capitalise on the government's EV scheme.

The new plant is scheduled to start operations in early 2019, making lithium-ion batteries on a 30 rai plot 600 metres from the car factory.

Mr Lettner declined to disclose projected production capacity. The new battery plant is anticipated to create 300 new jobs.

"All locally-assembled batteries will serve Mercedes-Benz's PHEVs in the local market and we can beef up our capacity once local demand expands," he said.

Michael Grewe, president and chief executive of Mercedes-Benz Thailand said its PHEV models accounted for 40% of the company's 14,484 units sold in 2017.

He said Mercedes-Benz is committed to offering the best car technology to its customers.

Mr Grewe said with the company's strong presence in the PHEV market, it aims to capitalise on future trends in the automotive industry.

"The current investment reflects our confidence in the passenger car market in the country, especially for PHEVs," he said.

Mr Grewe said some of the investment will go into expansion of its existing car plant at TAAP, mainly focusing on PHEV development.

Veerachai Chaochankij, TAAP's managing director, said the capacity expansion is intended to serve the growth of Mercedes-Benz sales.

In 2017 alone, TAAP produced over 12,000 cars for Mercedes-Benz.

The plant employs over 1,000 people.

Mercedes-Benz has a long relationship with TAAP, running back to 1960.

Both firms started by assembling Mercedes-Benz's commercial vehicles before making passenger cars in 1979.

In mid-January, Mercedes-Benz Thailand announced that the company had applied for BoI privileges for two platforms: PHEVs and BEVs.

The application deadline for both is Dec 28.

The company did not give any further details, saying it plans to launch new models under the government's EV scheme this year.

Mercedes-Benz started building PHEVs in Thailand from early 2016, while its HEV platform has been phased out.

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